Kraken Breakdown: Where they stand, what to expect at trade deadline

Mar 1, 2023, 11:16 AM

Seattle Kraken Jordan Eberle Phillip Grubauer...

Kraken RW Jordan Eberle is greeted by goalie Philipp Grubauer after scoring against the Red Wings on Feb. 18, 2023. (AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson)

(AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson)

The 5-3 Seattle Kraken win over the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday was bigger than it might have appeared.

Kraken Recap: Geekie ends drought with 2 goals, Seattle beats Blues 5-3

It snapped a three-game losing streak, earned the Kraken two huge points in the playoff race, and saw them getting back to the way they had played earlier in the season. After an 11-win month of January, Seattle did not do as well in February with a 4-6-1 record, indicating that perhaps the team was fading.

Tuesday’s win jumped the Kraken over the Edmonton Oilers, back into third place in the Pacific Division and in a better spot to potentially make a playoff appearance.

“We tried to play below the goal line as much as we could,” said Morgan Geekie, who scored twice in the win. “We’re a heavy team and we move the puck well. I think we played really well. I think we stuck to our game plan. It was pretty simple coming in.”

Against the Blues on Tuesday, Seattle was much better in its own end than it was against Toronto on Sunday when the Maple Leafs appeared to have free reign of the Kraken net front. That led to second and third chances at the goal as well as traffic and limited vision for Seattle’s goalies.

Ultimately, Toronto skated away with a 5-1 win that left one wondering if the Kraken were fading and blowing a chance to make the playoffs.

Granted, one win against a Blues team that has sold off most of its top players already doesn’t solve all of Seattle’s ills, but it was a big step in the right direction.

What does the playoff picture look like? What’s upcoming for the Kraken? And can Friday’s trade deadline help them solidify a postseason berth? Let’s take a look.

Playoff picture

The Western Conference playoff picture changes daily and is nowhere near being settled.

After Tuesday’s win, the Kraken are in third place of the Pacific Division. So if the season ended Wednesday, Seattle would be in.

The Kraken have 72 points, as do the two teams trailing them (Edmonton and Winnipeg), so there is no rest for the weary when it comes to earning points down the stretch. It might be easier to watch the ninth-place spot in the conference, currently occupied by the Calgary Flames with 67 points. They are the first team out of the playoffs and the Kraken would like to keep them there.

Kraken need to pick up play

The three games the Kraken had lost in a row prior to Tuesday gave us a bit of everything.

It started with a horrible 4-0 loss on the road to the San Jose Sharks on President’s Day. Playing a team far below them in the standings with no chance at the playoffs, the Kraken were sluggish from the start, couldn’t muster any offense and went meekly into the afternoon. It didn’t help that Yanni Gourde, trying to win a faceoff, fired the puck at his own net and accidentally scored.

They then took on the league’s best at Climate Pledge Arena last Thursday in the Boston Bruins. In a classic back-and-forth, high-scoring affair where they matched Boston for most of the night before allowing two goals at the end of the game to lose.

It was encouraging that they were able to match Boston, but on the other hand they blew a late lead and a chance to pick up points.

The losing streak culminated in Sunday’s 5-1 loss to the Maple Leafs where Toronto had its way crashing the net in front of goalie Philipp Grubauer, allowing second chances, screens, as well as players left wide open for good looks at the net.

“They do that well, they put pucks into the scoring areas and they’ve got a lot of good skill,” Kraken coach Dave Hakstol said. “But they’ve also got some heavy guys with hard sticks in there and they put pucks inside of there. So, for me there’s some of those struggles, we’re reaching instead of getting in and getting under, being physical at the puck. When you reach against a team like this, you get yourself in trouble.”

To break out of the malaise on Tuesday, the Kraken got back to hard play in front of their own net and played a strong team defensive game. They look to keep that style going Thursday when they head to Detroit to play the Red Wings.

Trade deadline to the rescue?

The NHL trade deadline is Friday and Seattle could be looking at bringing in players to help shore up the team. Who or at what positions it might be remains to be seen.

“The group in this room has really done it together from start to finish to this to this point in time,” Hakstol said. “The confidence that our group has in one another is high… we’ll see what the deadline brings. That’s ultimately not up to us in here. We’re a confident group in one another. Everybody’s aware of what’s going on throughout the conference and around the league and is watching that, but we’ll see what Friday brings.

“Right from day one, not a lot of people on the outside probably had us in this position at this point in time. So, whatever the deadline brings, it’s the group that’s inside of this room that’s going to be at the core of how we finish down the stretch. So ultimately, that’s what matters most.”

Hakstol doesn’t sound eager to break up the mix of players he has going for him now, and his general manager, Ron Francis, has been preparing fans for a quiet week. Yes, they could use some more depth down the middle, and every team is looking to add defensive depth. Seattle has done some of that already by acquiring defenseman Jaycob Megna from San Jose last month.

It’s a different landscape from last year when the team was nowhere near the playoffs and happy to sell off players who were at the end of their contracts and facing unrestricted free agency.

Defenseman Carson Soucy and forward Ryan Donato are in that boat this year. Soucy is a third-pairing defenseman and Donato is a versatile fourth-line forward. Francis might be able to find improvements, but it’s unlikely he is going to spend too much future draft capital for players of that ilk.

The upcoming NHL Draft is widely considered to be one of the deepest in years, meaning that holding on to picks becomes vital.

“I like our team,” Francis said in a recent interview with the Kraken web page. “They’ve shown they can win against anybody. Hopefully, we get ‘Burky’ (forward Andre Burakovsky) back and healthy. Then this group can do what it’s done all year.”

It’s safe to say that fans shouldn’t expect any major moves this week. Francis will be making calls, but if he can’t find upgrades, he may just look at the return of Burakovky and the moves made this summer as his “deadline deals” and not be too active this week.

The Kraken may just have to settle in, play the way they did in January, and rely on what should be a friendly schedule down the stretch to make it into the playoffs. They do that, and nobody will look at February as a month where the team faded.

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